With breezy, better-than-summer weather drifting into the lush, green surroundings of Prospect Park, the fans coming in looked festival-ready in their lightweight July attire – only the best for Sylvan Esso’s return to BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!, the laid-back community gathering where the duo had dazzled us back in ‘15. The raised phones and chitchat were unavoidable side effects of a young, antsy crowd, but the focus visibly shifted as Middle Kids kicked off their opening set. The Sydney, Australia-based alt-rockers whipped up an early dance party with their high-spirited stage presence, and frontwoman Hannah Joy seemed as happy as the kids up front. “This is the best..thing..ever!” she said. “We have no idea how we got this gig, but it’s the best.”
Their upbeat, unfussy sound was shaped by Hannah’s strong, wide-ranging vocals, which – especially in the high register, where she radiated warmth and surety – had the power to provoke sudden squeals and bursts of applause. With multi-instrumentalist/husband Tim Fitz completely rocking out on bass, and drummer Harry Day thrashing as hard as his long hair demands, they were hitting their stride before they’d reached the first chorus. Touring on their debut self-titled EP, released this past February, Middle Kids got the audience acquainted with their authentic sound, particularly on album opener “Your Love,” and the overnight-fame-inducing single, “Edge of Town,” both of which sounded extra fresh. But perhaps the most memorable part was Hannah’s stripped-down, magnetic solo performance on “Doing It Right” – a song that features such lyrical gems as “And he’s waiting at the deli, for the deli man to shave the belly,” which she delivered with delicious rhythm.
It was an awesome treat for the crowd, who probably hadn’t expected to discover a new favorite band that evening – mainly since they were so pumped for Sylvan Esso, they could barely stand still. When producer Nick Sanborn took the stage and started laying down the foundation, there were big squeals each time he built up a new pattern and finessed the beats in between. The excitement bubbled over when Amelia Meath’s distinct vocals snuck into the night air, entering before she did on their first song, “Sound” – the same one that opens their sophomore LP, What Now (released this past February). And the catchiest hits were in high supply; the enticing beats of “Dress,” “Signal,” “Die Young,” “Coffee,” and “Hey Mami” so familiar to their obsessed fans, but sounding better than ever on this particular night. Bathed in colorful, strobing lights that barely cut through in the haze of the smoke machines, Amelia was absolutely on fire – not only singing like a pro, but kicking, jumping, and defying gravity on tiptoe in her signature platform creepers.
“It is so good to be back,” said the North Carolina-based songstress between songs. “We’ve had a beautiful week in your fair city.” Then, revealing a little personal tidbit that everyone seemed to enjoy, she and Nick briefly discussed the Phish show they’d caught the night before at Madison Square Garden. “It was my first time…and I GOT it,” she said proudly, referring to the band’s somewhat Pied Piper effect in drawing fans. “It was my 22nd time,” laughed Nick, affirming exactly that. And if Sylvan Esso keep up the momentum, who knows? They might soon have a cult-like following of their own, making their way to dozens of shows to soak up their every note. If the energy at Prospect Park was any measure, they’re already on the right track.
Photos: Shayne Hanley
Article: Olivia Isenhart